Monday, December 15, 2008

I didn't know how "dead" I was...

until I was alive again.
We spent Saturday with our family for our annual Christmas gathering. It was the best of both worlds. The bad - it continues to be heartbreaking to watch my mother sit in the midst of her children and grandchildren and be unable to enjoy the rewards of a parenting job well done and a life well-spent. The good? Lots of good...
We cooked a huge low country boil. Thankfully turkey sausage and boiled shrimp are on my "approved" list and I enjoyed a taste of both. More importantly, though, it was a pleasure to stand outside over a cooking pot of food and not have to sit down and take a tremendous load off my feet, knees and ankles. This sounds like small potatoes to some, but a few short months ago I was barely able to stand through a complete hymn at church. I broke out with the sweats and lower extremities ROARED with pain. Saturday, I not only stood up to cook for an extended period of time, I played basketball with nephews and nieces and and made many trips to and from the car up a long hill of a driveway. And Saturday evening's schedule didn't include painkillers or hot baths. I could've done it all over again with no problem. Again, I sound like one of those weepy fools on a Richard Simmons infomercial, but I really am alive again. It feels good.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Random stuff...

How can the same scale that says one thing in the morning say another thing in the afternoon? Actually, the delay isn't always that long. The other day I weighed before my shower then weighed when I got out of the shower. I gained a pound in the shower. Did I really get that wet? Ok, I know - the real problem is me stepping on the scales too often. But I've become addicted to the numbers. The weight loss has slowed down considerably, though I am still losing. But I'm becoming obsessed with the notion "Oh my God! What if it stops now??? This is good, but I wanted to lose a lot more than this!" I have these thoughts often. It ain't healthy.
One thing that would accelerate the weight loss is if I would get myself to the gym. But in this day and time - with money being as scarce as it is for everyone - where in hades does the extra cash come for a gym membership? My bride insists that we'll find it and they're not as expensive as you think. But beyond the money issue is still the "feeling fat" problem. I don't want to go the gym with a bunch of Lou Ferrigno wanna' be's staring at themselves in the mirror while they work on a lat pull down machine. Even when I was young and athletic and lifting weights religiously I hated those guys. Now that I'm older, not so athletic (and infinitely less tolerant of morons) I'm really afraid I'd have a heated discussion with a guy that likes to stare at himself in the mirror that much. "Excuse me can sweat it up and flex in that mirror for an hour but you're going to still be a bore married to some tennis skirt that makes you listen to Barry Manilow... but at least you drive a really cool minivan." Where does "feeling fat" fit into that equation? It's complicated.
Being as large as I was doesn't just have the obvious physical side effects. Unless you're a person that's just given up on everything you really just feel dead. I never gave up on everything but came very close many times. The worst part was living with the sick feeling that everyone else in the world saw nothing of you beyond your weight - even people you love. Whether relating to you as brother, son-in-law, friend, nephew or whatever you were certain you were just no longer "you" but "fat you." You're familiar with the conversations that always occur when you leave a social gathering - "Dear God, did you see her hair?" "What was he thinking with those shoes??" "Did he really think that shirt was his size?" I've lived KNOWING that I was first topic of those type conversations after folks had been around me "Tim's gotten huge, hasn't he?" "I wonder how much longer he's got before his heart explodes?" "God, I could hardly eat for looking at how big he is these days!" Now, that I've lost so much weight, I'm still certain that people have these conversations going on in their head. And I'm also certain that strangers (like the aforementioned boys at the gym) are really raking me over the coals. I really need to come to a point where I can tell myself "You've accomplished a lot in a very short period of time. There's a very good chance that everyone in a room is not checking you out anymore...and if they are they can get over themselves. You've lost 188 pounds. You win."
Speaking of "feeling dead" I had no idea how much my old state of mind and body kept me from enjoying until Christmas got here. My family has often mocked me for being a "Scrooge." I don't hate the holidays...I just didn't enjoy them very much. But that's really more a reflection of me not enjoying anything very much because of my weight and health. This year I've been a walking Norman Rockwell portrait. I've been to a Christmas cantata. Sunday night I built a fire in the fireplace and my bride and I watched Polar Express. Yesterday, after work, I put up the Christmas tree, went to Home Depot for more lights and THEN we went to Starbucks for coffee and drove around looking at Christmas lights. This afternoon I'm going for more lights to put on our silver maple tree in the front yard. The other night I watched a documentary about those Andy Williams Christmas specials that used to come on every year. Oh dear God...pretty soon I'll have one of those dorky Rudolph noses on the grill of my truck! This is all coming from a guy who used to consider Christmas a done deal if I'd listened to Springsteen sing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and had done my fair share of nog without the egg. I had no idea how dead I was until December got here. And I fear that, once again, the victim of that mindset was Rhonda. She's earned sainthood for not putting me out at the mailbox with the flag up.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

1 down, 1 to go!

Thanksgiving came and went and it was painless. No suffering while watching other folks indulge themselves. No regrets about what I wasn't eating. I allowed myself the opportunity to enjoy what I was eating. I must admit that my one and only indulgence came at dinner on thanksgiving day (my first 'cheat' so to speak.) It was a grand heaping tablespoon full of.........dressing (You thought I was going to say pecan pie or something didn't you?) Dressing is one of my favorite things in the world and I thought "one bite won't kill me" and it didn't. I'm satisfied now and good 'til Christmas!
Grand total weight loss is 184 pounds. I'm losing slower now which worries me. But everybody from the surgeon to his nurse to my nutritionist has repeatedly said to avoid getting obsessed with how fast it's coming off. So I won't (ok, that's a lie...I will.)
One more thing to say about Thanksgiving weekend:
Wait for it........

Here it comes.......

This is my favorite part........


I have to say it again because it feels so good........


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mr. Hawkins

(This has nothing to do with weight loss, food, surgery or, well, anything relevant. Just cleaning out the corners of my mind, I reckon.)
Few things inspire as much awe and wonder and curiosity for us mortals as a sky full of stars. The history of our species is dotted with celestial flirtations. From building a tower we thought would take us straight to The Almighty to strapping ourselves on rockets and blasting towards heaven mankind has, from the start, been obsessed with what’s out there. I guess we’ve come full circle…a space shuttle is simply a high-tech Tower of Babel.
Sitting on my patio appreciating the grandeur of a starry night doesn’t take me to the planets or galaxies. It doesn’t cause me to feebly ponder infinity or deities. It takes me back to sixth grade. In the sixth grade, Jack Hawkins taught us how to look up and find the great hunter Orion and his trusty dog Canis Major. And now, as an adult, whatever else is headlining in any given night sky, I always search for the ever present Orion and I silently thank Mr. Hawkins (who I haven’t seen in 30 years and probably wouldn’t know me if he saw me.)
At Rockbridge Elementary School Mr. Hawkins taught us how to make all types of gadgets out of cardboard, drinking straws and fishing weights that would help us find The Big Dipper, The Little Dipper and Orion. He told us what planets would be visible at what times of the evening and how to find them. Back on earth, we tracked hurricanes and raised tadpoles into frogs. His were the only homework assignments I looked forward to completing.
My mother used to say that only God and mamas could love sixth graders. I think she left Mr. Hawkins off the list. He had to love us to put as much effort into making an impression and teaching lessons that would last into our adult years. It had to be more than just a job for him. I’m not an educator. But I have three sisters who are. When I grew up and got married I married the daughter of an educator. I have a special place in my heart for those who teach. I liken them to those who work in the mortuary science fields – I’m glad somebody wants to do it but I’m glad that someone isn’t me! There probably are educators who don’t care about the difference they make and treat their jobs as, well, jobs. But I haven’t met them among the ones I know.
My father-in-law has been retired from school administration for over ten years. Yet there’s not a meal-time blessing at his dinner table that doesn’t mention our schools and our teachers. I’ve heard him imply many times that it’s not so much the career he misses as it is the kids. The fondness with which he remembers those kids tells me that he made as profound an impression on those children as Mr. Hawkins made on me.
Jack Hawkins probably never got famous. He probably never got rich. But what he did accomplish in the course of a career was to make children better people and, in turn, make the world a better place. There are CEO’s, presidents and prime ministers who can’t make that claim. I’m not even sure that Mr. Hawkins is still living but I’d like to have the opportunity to thank him. He didn’t just teach me how to find Orion…he taught me how to find my way through the universe (and that it helps to have a good dog watching your back.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Alive and well......

I mean really well. Total up to 180 lbs. lost. Sometimes I think "oh, 180 pounds,,that's good." And then sometimes I think "Holy crap! 180 pounds?????" Yesterday was a "Holy crap!" kind of day. Had an eye-opening day yesterday.
We started out the day going to church. We then went to lunch and Discover Mills. Yes, I went shopping. In a roundabout way, the one thing that you would expect to lure me to shopping was the key - college football. I had a gift card to Tailgater's Alley. I went to see if they had a white hoodie that would fit me. Thursday night against Miami is a whiteout and the only white stuff I have will not be warm enough for a night game. So I went to a store and bought clothes off a rack. They had one that fit me! Are you hearing me? I bought something off a rack!!! I tried on other stuff. They had lots of stuff that fit me. I had tried on other stuff so that maybe Rhonda can give people gift ideas. Instead of telling them "you'll have to order it from the 'GOD YOU'RE HUGE!' catalog" she can tell them "they have a jacket at Tailgater's Alley he wants." I stood in the middle of that store and started crying. So did my bride. People in the packed store probably thought "Wow - those people love Georgia Tech!"
We left that store and walked around the mall for a while longer. Not one single person stared at the fat guy. Not one child pointed and laughed. I wasn't sweating to death. I didn't stop every five minutes to rest. We left the mall and went to the grocery store. More walking and I was fine. I didn't go home and take painkillers for my knees and ankles and go to bed. I felt alive for the first time in years.
My sister has long compared me to the George Bailey character in "It's A Wonderful Life." I relate to the way the man felt about himself, but I fear she overestimates the "being important in other people's lives angle" where I'm concerned. That said there's one scene in that movie I relate to more than any other. When he's standing on the bridge screaming to The Almighty "I wanna live again..I wanna' live again!" I'm not trying to be a martyr when I tell you that I've been screaming that for years now. My weight has kept me from being the husband, brother, son and friend I should be. My weight has kept Rhonda from having much to look forward to. Yesterday I truly felt alive. The day we spent probably seems routine for some of you. For me it was but a peek into how good things are about to become. I'm looking forward to the ride.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


So we're right at 175 pounds lost now. Like I've said a zillion times, success worries me. I'm waiting on the bad news. Perhaps I need to change my lifelong thought process. Perhaps there's not always a bad with the good, a dark with the light or a fall with a rise. Perhaps this is going to work. Listen to me - gushing positivity! Change my house to glass and call me Robert Schuller!
From the get it off my chest department - I'm not a fan of politics. I've lost faith in most politicians and their parties. I'm not a conservative, I'm not a liberal. I'm me and "me" is fairly liberal in some areas and pretty conservative in others. I generally don't see a "me" running for anything so I'm left to choose the closest possible option. That said, here's what I'm sick of - the so-called talking heads. The Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys of the world. Obama hasn't been sworn in yet and they've already started. Limbaugh said something to the effect that this is "Obama's economy,,it's in recession and headed for depression." IT'S OBAMA'S ECONOMY? Uh, Rush...Obama hasn't been steering the ship the last 8 years. They're spewing drivel about what danger we're in, how dire things will become and tons of rhetoric about "Marxism." They're entitled to their opinion...I got no problem with that. Here's what bugs me, though - these are same morons who in the last eight years have told us that if we didn't agree that George W. Bush walked on water then we hated America. We needed to support the president because wanting him to succeed was wanting America to succeed. So why don't the same rules apply now? I have NO idea if Obama was the right choice. But I do know this - the better off he does the better off the country does. So he has my prayers, not just for his sake, but for the sake of my country.
Along these lines, I overheard a frightening conversation while traveling Sunday. In Somewhere, South Carolina (really, I have no idea where we were) we stopped for lunch at a Wendy's. The place was full of folks who just got out of church. With God as my witness, I overheard an employee of the restaurant telling a customer "Well, they say that every fourth president is assassinated, so maybe......" I wanted to ask her "Let me get this straight - you're actually HOPING for an assassination attempt on the president's life?" Remember the line from "Driving Miss Daisy" "You think things have changed? Well they ain't changed all that much..."
Ok, I feel better now.....

Monday, November 10, 2008

Collards make me happy....

You can smell them cooking a mile away. I don't really think they're appreciated by anyone north of Tennessee or west of Mississippi. It seems the big cooking show cliche is "comfort food." Ok, I'll play - collards are comfort food to the umpteenth degree. In a time where food has become a chore rather than an enjoyment, I am relieved to find out that collards still make me comfortable and happy.
At a small, hard to find corner of Chapel Hill, North Carolina sits Mama Dip's. Mama Dip was a real person but I'm not really sure if she's still living or not. But her family carries on the tradition of southern delicacies that'll make you feel happy no matter where you're from. On our annual trip to that part of the world for football (either against Duke or North Carolina, depending on the year) we made a stop this past Friday to visit Mama Dip's. I've gotten my mind trained to not really look forward to food all that much. Find something that's "allowable" and eat what you can. Soft cooked vegetables are "allowable" so I decided to give a bowl of collards a shot. Granted, they would've been better with a chunk of cornbread, but that bowl of collards tasted as good as almost anything I've put in my mouth since surgery. Granted, there wasn't any protein to speak of, but they sure tasted like heaven. The only thing that's come close is a turkey meatloaf my bride made me right after surgery. I bet I'd enjoy that even more now that food is actually starting to taste good.
I'm rambling..bottom line, it was a treat to sit down and enjoy food.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Tis the season......

ok, so it's not "the season" just yet but I've already started thinking about it. We're just about done with football season (somebody hold me,,,please) and I've survived tailgating season. You know what? It IS possible to tailgate and have fun without indulging in copious amounts of unhealthy food and drink. I'm probably much less amusing to the folks that sit around me at games but, fear not, that fool will be back next season. Now begins the hardest season of all. I'm not sure that it's possible to fully enjoy the holidays (I'm talking Thanksgiving and the Christmas season) without good foods that you don't consume at any other time during the year.
If I make it to heaven one day I'll know I'm there because my heaven is a place that forever smells like my Mother's kitchen the day before Thanksgiving. I've cooked many turkeys and many pans of dressing but was never able to recreate that heavenly aroma that was "home" in every sense of the word. Perhaps I should just refrain from recognizing Thanksgiving this year and go sit in the mountains somewhere and look at the leaves changing. Or maybe I should just go sit in downtown Athens. I never seem to have an appetite there.
And Christmas - what's Christmas going to be without a taste of potato candy? Before my Mother fell victim to Alzheimer's there were two people who knew how to make it. Now there's only one of us. I guess I'll make a batch of it so that my family will have that connection to Mama. And I'll survive.
Fast forward to adulthood - one of my favorite current traditions is to splurge and cook something fancy and good for my bride the day before Christmas. I'd spend all day Christmas Eve alternating between martinis and cooking. This year she's being a trooper "We can go get some fresh fish and grill it or something..that'll be good." Christmas Day is usually a blur for us and becomes as tiring and stressful as it is enjoyable - rushing from house to house seeing our loved ones. Christmas Eve always seemed more like our holiday than Christmas Day. Again, I feel she's missing out because of my self-imposed change in lifestyle. But we'll survive.
Whenever something gets stuck in my craw, I always feel better after blogging about it. When it lives in my mind, whatever challenge I'm obsessing about seems insurmountable. Then, when I put it in words, I think "I can handle that...."
Totally unrelated ramblings:
Mindless rant #1 Thank GOD that today is election day. I'm grateful to live in a free society where we can have a change of leadership without tanks in the streets and former leaders being hung by their toenails in the square. That said, I'm sick of politicians at this point. Whoever wins I'm glad it's over.
Mindless rant #2 - can we now agree that the SEC was the most overrated conference in football this year? It's Florida and Alabama and then everyone else. Before the season the media stepped all over themselves touting the SEC as the reason God created the universe. This year, give me the Big XII, hands down. The Texas Tech/Texas game last Saturday night was as good a college game I'd watched in....well........hours - at least since I got home from the Tech-FSU game. And what's that loud THUD I just heard? It was everybody jumping off the Georgia bandwagon. Let the word go forth - before the season I proclaimed to anyone who would listen that Georgia was nowhere near the team the national media had proclaimed them to be. And yes, my view is severely skewed by my white and gold colored glasses. But I have one message for the guy that wears #24 for the bulldogs - just play football. Just play football and quit acting like a fool. You looked like a buffoon (is that a word?) patting Charlie Strong on the hiney after picking up a first down. Especially when, a few plays thereafter, your quarterback threw it to someone wearing the wrong jersey. And personally, I could watch that video of the Florida middle linebacker changing your zip code over & over & over....In fact I have. You're a talented young man and I want all talented young men playing NCAA football to get their degrees and succeed. But you'd make it easier to root for you if you'd act like you'd been there before.
WHEW! I feel much better now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


If the food gods called me to Mount Gluttony and said "for today, you can have anything you want to eat and we'll remove the calories, fat grams, carbs and everything else that makes food taste good..." you know what I'd choose? Easy - I'd fire up the grill and throw down a burger of Biblical proportions. Yep, a medium rare burger with grilled onions, jalapenos, mayo and heinz 57 would make me very happy! I think burgers are the one thing that I'm actually missing. They're the one thing that I've seen other people eating and thought "I want that...badly." Yes, there's veggie burgers. But veggie burgers are to burgers what George Bush is to world leaders...flat..blah...unable to make a complete sentence. Yep, a burger and a cold adult beverage would be a good thing. But you know what? I can wait. I can wait 6 months on a burger. Doing without one for 6 months is a small, small price to pay for all the good that's happening to me right now. Truth be told, if a huge burger was put in front of me right now, a bite or two would be all I could handle. And I'd definitely have to deconstruct the thing. Big bites of food aren't happening right now. If I take too big a bite it's painful and seems to get stuck about where my sternum is located. An adult beverage, on the other hand, would go down pretty smoothly I'm thinking! It just occurred to me - I might be the problem with the economy! The food and liquor industry has taken a HUGE hit because of my new lifestyle and it's rippled through the entire economy! Blame me for your 401k tanking!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I've got to quit weighing myself.......

After such huge chunks of weight falling off immediately after surgery things have slowed a bit. In the last three weeks I've only lost 7 pounds. Prior to the weigh-in I had in my mind what my weight would be and prematurely celebrated the numbers. The preconceived numbers fell well short of reality and kept me from being happy about the reality. 7 pounds is good. 7 pounds is an accomplishment. But if you drove a Bentley work to yesterday driving a minivan today is going to leave you cold. My bride said to be happy. The nutritionist said to be happy. The surgeon's nurse said to be happy. So, I guess, I'll be happy and move on.
All previous weigh-in's had been either at the surgeon's office or the nutritionist's office. Now, however, we've ordered a moderately priced scale that can give me accurate readings to use here at home. After the aforementioned modest loss, I'm honest-to-God afraid to take the new one out of the box! I don't want to play the mind games I've played in the last week, obsessing about numbers. Further, having the thing accessible 24-7, I'm afraid I'll become some sort of weigh-in junkie and it'll drive me nuts! "OH MY GOD... I HAVEN'T LOST ANY WEIGHT SINCE THIS AFTERNOON!!!!!! IT'S BEEN THREE HOURS SINCE I LAST CHECKED IT AND NOTHING HAS HAPPENED!!!!" You think I'm kidding...I can definitely see myself becoming that manic. Go figure..after a quarter century or more of avoiding finding out what my weight actually is I can't go an hour without thinking about it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Have I become annoying?

You know the person. The person who took a vacation to France and visited the Louvre and now they're an art history professor. The person who went to Jamaica on vacation and now they're the world's leading expert on Rastafarian culture. The person who once saw the Bering Strait and now includes extensive foreign relations in their resume (oh wait, I said I'd avoid politics!) Anyway, I got it on my mind last night that I've become THAT person with regards to weight and nutrition. The people around me are probably thinking "Hey - chunky monkey! SHUT UP!!! You've been the fat guy most of your life and now suddenly you're Richard Simmons?????????? SHUT UP!!!"
I'm not trying to be the expert. I'm not trying to be "healthier than thou." But I had no idea how much or how poorly I ate until I wasn't eating that way anymore. I had no idea what a destructive path I was on until I was on a much healthier one. I had no idea how similar my thought and behavior patterns were to those that have chemical or alcohol dependencies. And I don't want anyone I care about to find themselves fighting the same battles. That said, though, I don't want to start irritating y'all. If I do, smack me. Or eat a tofu sandwich (with grilled onions and melted provolone) from Mellow Mushroom in front of me. That would hurt more...
Speaking of eating out, check out You can look up restaurants and find some healthy food choices at restaurants (even fast food joints.) It's quite the eye opener.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Vitamin D

So did you read the other day about all the things that Vitamin D can do for children if given to them at an early age? It apparently can make them smarter, help fight off a laundry list of diseases, gives them powers of prophesy, make them bulletproof and actually make them aerodynamic enough to fly. OK, so I made up most of that. But there were strong indicators that it can help children avoid a copious amount of adult diseases. It got me to thinking about how much more information folks have today on what to feed children and what not to feed children, not to mention a vastly improved array of choices.
When I was a child, folks thought liver would cure cancer. Consequently, liver & onions ended up on a lot of menus and a lot of unhappy children suffered through dinner. My Lord, liver and onions could be found on menus at family restaurants. Now, of course, liver is considered poison.
Access to fresh vegetables has certainly made vegetables more palatable. When I was a child, vegetables came from a can. Spinach in a can was beyond nasty. Asparagus in a can was a slimy mess. I loathed them both as a child. As an adult I've come to love them both - not so much because my tastes have changed but because you can run to the Kroger and buy both of these things fresh nearly year 'round. Oh my God...asparagus is crunchy!!!! Who knew???? Spinach can be eaten raw in a salad??? If these had been available when I was a child I think getting the much-needed vegetables would've been much easier.
I'm rambling. I guess my point is that, hopefully, with a wider array of choices parents today might have an easier time getting good nutrition into kids than my parents did. When I'm out in public, I'm a real people watcher. In restaurants I do tend to notice a lot of what people are eating. I've been surprised by seeing kids eating veggies with their entree instead of fries. A couple of weeks ago we dined at Applebee's with the in-laws. There I saw a child that couldn't have been 5 or 6 years old eating a salad (granted, he was not using utensils which made it unable for me to watch him for long...) I don't think I ate salads until I was in high school!
I'm not trying to throw my parents' efforts under the bus here. My mom always had a vegetable on the table and I liked some of them (with the exception of the aforementioned asparagus and spinach.) But parents just didn't have the bombardment of information about kids' nutrition that's available today. I'm sure that recent spikes in the number of obese children in our country have made this happen. Hopefully it'll help a generation of children avoid the struggles that I've fought over the years.
Geez, for someone without kids and who's not a nutritionist I'm talking like quite the expert. Join me tomorrow when I'll give lessons on flying the space shuttle!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The idiots are still trying....

The idiots are still trying to make me feel like a day old dog turd, but they're not winning. The kid and his dad were walking up North Ave. after the Tech game. There I was enjoying the sunshine, Tech won, Duke had been humbled and this kid tries to ruin it all by reminding me "Wow! You're fat!" I said "wow - you're rude!" You may think I would've been better served by just ignoring him and not saying anything back to him. But consider this - I refrained from telling him that his ears were huge and I hoped he grew into them soon. I could've also gone down this road: "That shirt you have on? When you're an adult you're going to hate your parents for making you wear such as that...unless, of course, your name by then is Angela and you can tell Oprah you blame your confused sense of gender identity on being forced to wear that shirt."
See...I'm doing better! In days past I would've said all of that to his face. Instead I brightened your day with it!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Some days, it's as simple as this...

I'm in the office today. One of the few ventures into the office since surgery. There's a piece of paper on the floor next to my desk. Still seated, I bent over and picked it up. No redistribution of gut required. The Romanian judge gave me a perfect 10.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Six weeks out........

So we're six weeks out from surgery which means I had my six week follow-up with the surgeon yesterday. Dr. Richard continues to be destined for sainthood. I've never met a more personable, caring physician. This appointment consisted of just sitting and talking. I told him my primary concern - that I have zero appetite and I'm forcing myself to eat most of the time. He said that was to be expected. He said it might be that way for 6 months or even a year. Wait a minute...ME? Having no interest in food for a year????? The last time I went that long without craving food it was because I was sleeping in a crib and still on formula.
One interesting thing he told me dealt with saboteurs. I told him I wasn't worried about that because EVERYBODY in my immediate circle had been nothing but supportive. He said to not be surprised when folks who had been nothing but supportive began to worry 5-6 months down the road. He said "you'll hear things like 'you look need to eat!' They'll be very well-meaning and only concerned about you...but just keep doing what you're doing.." Along those same lines he said "I've been around you enough to know that you're the 'big guy.' You're the guy that people love to be around and you make people laugh and your persona is always going to be the big, lovable guy. On some levels, people are going to miss that guy. You'll have to show them that you're still that person, just in a healthier package!" I fear he overestimates the "lovable" factor but I see his point. I've probably always been "the character" in a crowd, famous for cooking mass quantities of animal flesh on open fires and keeping several distilleries and breweries in business. In the words of Mr. Buffett "I've got a native tongue from way down sits in the cheek of my gulf-coastal mouth..." Mostly irreverent and never taking things seriously, I've always been ready to turn any situation into a comedic one. Now, in hindsight, I wonder how much of that has always been somewhat of a defense,,,,no, a deflection. If I can make people laugh and help them have a good time, they won't notice my considerable girth. So if I lose my considerable girth, will I still be "the character" or will I be someone else? Someone that's not as much fun to be around as I used to be? OH DEAR GOD! I sound like a soap opera (not that I watch that crap...well, not much...) Maybe I'm creating things to worry about. Maybe this wouldn't have ever popped into my mind if he hadn't mentioned it. Maybe I should call Erica Kane and discuss it with her over tea at the yacht club.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Long time, no blog. It's been a strange couple of weeks. Where to begin? I guess Labor Day morning. I woke up and my left ankle wouldn't work. I mean it was like Kathy Bates had snuck in during the night and whacked it with a sledge hammer. What in the world? It hurt all day Labor Day and went from bad to worse the day after Labor Day. So over the next two days I see three different doctors. Nothing specific beyond "pre-existing arthritic conditions." Things continued to go south in the next week as my RIGHT ANKLE quit functioning. Ok, what deity have I angered now? I'm enjoying my new life, new energy and continued weight loss and BOOM - suddenly I'm totally sidelined. Saw the orthopedist again yesterday and the final diagnosis is unbelievable. Apparently prior to weight loss there was excessive fluid and fat tissue "buffering" my ankles and the cartilage loss and the bone spurs. Now that excessive fluid and fat are both gone and the bone is rubbing bone and the bone spurs are digging in for the long haul. I got a cortisone injection in each ankle yesterday and - knock on wood - feel like a new man today. No cane today! (Yep, it got that bad..the last week a cane - the week before a walker. Do you know how OLD it makes one feel to be using canes and walkers?) My attitude went way south. I cared nothing about weight loss or being productive. There were very kind souls here taking care of me (sister and mother-in-law) and that continued to reinforce what I've learned through this whole process - I couldn't have done any of this without some strong, loving people in my corner. Once again, I thank you all. And Rhonda - oh dear God, poor Rhonda. She's been working herself to death since I left the hospital. First with all the post-op care and now with this stupid ankle stuff. I'll never, ever be able to repay her. She continues to be the best thing that ever happened to me.
Now on to good news. Rhonda took me to support group meeting last night at the hospital. It's a post-op support group for bariatric patients. Was able to soak up some bits of helpful information. But the best thing that happened was the weigh-in. My grand total weight loss (remember, this includes weight I lost on my own prior to August 12th surgery day) is 127 pounds. I've lost 39 pounds in the last three weeks alone. I was thrilled, obviously. We came home to catch the second half of the season premier of "The Biggest Loser." I can't believe I'm admitting this - they'll surely make me turn in my man card. But I started watching these people and suddenly started crying like a baby. Rhonda came in the room "Honey! What's wrong?????" I said "Last season we watched this and I ached to know what it'd be like to lose such large amounts of weight. Now I know........" I think for the first time I realized what a huge corner I've turned. I've grown cynical in my old age and sometimes think that miracles are things of the past. But the fact that I'm no longer thinking FOOD every waking minute is parting of the Red Sea huge. This is nothing short of a miracle.
This morning I woke up feeling new. My ankles have, for the most part, quit aching (the injection sites where they gave me the shots are sore and a little bruised, but I can live with that.) I jumped out of bed (yes, literally jumped.) I turned on the light in the closet and started trying on clothes. Clothes that I've not fit into for a long while. I had one suit in particular that I'd been wanting to get into. Again, like I've mentioned before, I'm not a suit kind of a guy. But this is a nice suit and I've been seeing it as some kind of enemy, hanging there in the closet taunting me. As recently as June the pants wouldn't button. I had to know THIS MORNING if I could fit into it. Well, I've missed my chance. It's now TOO BIG! Well, the pants are anyway..I could still wear the jacket with something else. Between me and you and the door, I cried again. My man card is about to be a thing of the past.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Small victories...

It hasn't taken long. In just the first couple of weeks post-surgery I've begun to see small changes that are ultimately going to add up to a huge victory. It's exciting, yes. But like a no-hitter in the bottom of the fifth, I'm almost afraid to mention them for fear of causing a texas-leaguer to drop in right over the shortstop's outstretched hand.
Had my first outing last Thursday night. Went to watch my beloved Yellow Jackets play Jacksonville State. Obviously the new coach's new offense putting 41 points on the board made the fatigue and heat worthwhile. But, again, I noticed small things pointing towards very exciting things. I walked better than I have in years (my bride has confirmed this.) If it hadn't been for the heat and humidity I think my energy level would've stayed quite high. It's hard to stay hydrated when you can only take small sips of water (it becomes especially pleasant when your bottle of water is hot by the 2nd quarter.) But overall it went well and I could definitely tell things are on the upswing.
Clothes. Oh man, they're starting to hang off of me. Especially the shorts I live in this time of year. I'm at a loss what to do about it. I'm not going to buy new stuff that in a very short while will be big as well. I do have some stuff I haven't gotten into in a while. Problem is, they're mostly suits. As mentioned in prior entries, I'm not really a suit guy. I guess I could become Cary Grant and be very dapper everywhere I go. Nah......dapper's never been my style. Now that I think about it, I also have a few pairs of jeans I'd grown out of. That'll be more my style, but not 'til cool weather gets here. Until then the world might just have to get a few glimpses of "Uncle Tim's hiney" (my niece's exclamation when I started to swim out of my bathing suit when we took her up to the pool a few weeks ago.)
Comfort. I actually curled up in a ball in my recliner the other night. I drew my knees up close to my chest and sat like a normal person. Now you're thinking "yeah,,that's real exciting." You have to remember I'm someone who's had zero mobility and suffered from swollen legs and feet and constantly aching knees. Not trying to whine - them's just the facts! All I could stand to do was lie here in the recliner like a beached whale with my legs flailing all over the living room. There was a time when my legs retained so much fluid they burst open with water blisters and I couldn't stand for one leg to touch the other. So it's a wonderful thing to be able to sit however I choose to.
Along those same lines, sleeping is much easier. Just this amount of weight lost has made lying in the bed such an easier task. I can actually turn over without grabbing the headboard and yanking my enormous self over onto the other side. The other night (drum roll) I woke up lying on my back! And I wasn't suffocating! Now I have asthma which is always going to be around regardless of my weight. I can't lie absolutely flat without gasping. BUT I was lying on my back with my head propped up by pillows. Amazing.
Yesterday I drove my bride's Tahoe for the first time in a while. Previously, when I drove her Tahoe, I had to tilt the steering wheel all the way to the top so as to accommodate my sizable gut. Yesterday, out of habit, I put it up there and immediately thought "I can't reach the I need to move the seat up?" It then occurred to me that the problem wasn't with the seat but with the wheel being too high. My stomach wasn't there anymore. I dropped the steering wheel down to the same level where she keeps it. Dear God - I'm become less freakish by the day! As soon as these scars heal my career in underwear modeling is ready to take off! (I'll be the guy in the Sears catalogue going to get the morning paper in his BVD's.)
Please don't be frightened...I'm not seriously considering a career in underwear modeling. I had gastric bypass..not a face lift.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The new curse of my life - protein!

First the good news - the surgery worked. My appetite is next to nothing. I think of things I want to eat and then, when it's in front of me, I have to force myself to eat it. The surgeon told me that there's some hormone (the name of which escapes me - I'll look into it) that is "base lined" by this surgery. Meaning hunger pangs become non-existent. I won't lie - there are things I crave - like tacos ( I want to punch that little tapper head eating the new revolutionary square-bottomed taco shell on the commercial.) But I'd bet bottom dollar that if I got one bite of a taco I'd be ready to chunk the rest of it in the trash.
Now the bad news - with the aforementioned decrease in appetite it becomes quite a chore to get in the 97 grams of protein I'm supposed to have daily. The same supernatural phenomenon that first fell out of the sky during the liquid diet now repeats itself. I'm having to force myself to EAT MORE. You have to understand, this is the universe upside down. This is lions and lambs lying together. This is Israelis and Palestinians in a group hug. This is George Bush making a complete sentence. Me? Not able to eat enough?? This is the same "me" that - along with 4 other high school buddies - was once asked to switch from chicken to catfish at an all-you can eat joint because we'd eaten all of their chicken. This is the same "me" who once thought of a bucket of chicken wings and a pitcher of suds as a light lunch. The same "me" who decided that cold/leftover pizza was a complete breakfast because it represented each of the four basic food groups. You get the idea...
My diet now includes basically protein and beans (much to my bride's chagrin) No cooked green veggies until we're 6 weeks out from surgery. It's hard to pack in enough meat and beans to make 97 grams of protein when you're really not all that hungry. But, like I've said, it's a small price to pay when looking at the big picture.
Now along comes football season. Let's see - next to no food and no adult beverages drastically alter my concept of a good tailgate. Again, a small price to pay. It's probably best I'll have a clear head to learn this new offense Paul Johnson's brought to town. If you have any questions ask me...and bring a taco to sec. 206 dammit........

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Food, glorious food......."

Today I had a scrambled egg for breakfast and 6 bites of imitation crab meat (whitefish) for lunch. It might've been the best tasting food I've had in a while. When you've been on liquids for three weeks it doesn't take much to excite you. I quickly learned the limitations of my new stomach. The few bites of the fish satisfied me and left me feeling like I'd had a complete meal.
Here's something else I learned today. Somewhere in the deepest, darkest recesses of hell, there exists laboratories. The devil's got his best scientists in there working on one thing - chewable vitamins. The devil's quality control team samples them to make sure they closely resemble sand flavored with dehydrated goat feces hidden just well enough by some artificial fruit flavoring so that the goat crap doesn't hit you until you're actually a few bites into it. The chewable iron doesn't taste bad at all. The chewable calcium isn't good, but it's not bad. So why in the name of all that's holy do the chewable vitamins have to be so nauseating??? (I guess I should've mentioned first - I'm required to take a long list of vitamins daily. They have to be chewable b/c my new stomach pouch can't digest huge pills swallowed whole.)
Had the 1 week post-op appointment today. Got my bandages removed and Dr. Richard (who is surely destined for sainthood) said everything looked good. My grand total weight loss (since February of this year) is 88 pounds. I've lost 19 pounds since my surgery last Tuesday. At the end of the appointment I thanked Dr. Richard for everything. He said "don't think did all the hard work. The tendency for bariatric patients is to credit all success to their surgeon. Don't ever do should be proud of everything you've accomplished." I'll say it again, Dr. Richard is a huge credit to his profession.
So now it's down to the nuts and bolts. Eating very small amounts of the right things. I promise it'll be infinitely easier than the weeks prior to and immediately after surgery.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I survived...

Tuesday morning (August 12th) came and went and I'm still alive on planet earth to irritate y'all 'til the cows come home. Hopefully, from here on out, there will be less and less resemblance between me and those proverbial cows.
The day started very early. We had to be at the hospital at 6:00. So we were up at 3:30. I had to shower with dial anti-bacterial soap and have just enough water to take my blood pressure medication (more on the water situation later.) We made the drive to Gainesville, arrived at the hospital a little before 6:00 and I was in one of those lovely gowns by 6:15. My pre-op nurse was one of several hospital employees I would meet that day who were gastric bypass patients themselves. What a relief it was to have someone walking you through the process who knew how nervous you were and gave you answers to all your questions before you asked them. The family came back to the pre-op room, the preacher came by and said a prayer, my sister gave me a kiss and then my in-laws stuck their head in the door. I was surprised to see them at such an early hour - they're doing the retirement thing and doing it well. My mother-in-law told me she was proud of me and my father-in-law shook my hand. I said "thanks much for getting up so early." He said "where else would I be but here with my son?" It took every ounce of control not to cry in the man's face. My own father died many years ago and my mother has been living under the fog of Alzheimer's for several years. It was nice to be some body's son again. The last face I saw before leaving was the sweetest face I know. My bride gave me a grin and said " I love you and I've never been prouder of anyone in my life." I knew, at that moment, I was going to beat this thing like a rented mule.
The nurse that took me back was from Prattville, Alabama. I knew this because she worked hard at making conversation about anything. She was yet another former bariatric patient who had lost nearly 200 pounds as a result of this surgery. She kept my mind occupied and held my hand until I was asleep. Like most surgeries, my transition from sleep to waking up in recovery was almost instantaneous. The first thing I did was reach down to my abdomen to see if the surgery had been done laproscopically or open. I felt no staples running from sternum to waistline so I was instantly relieved.
Remember my mention of water? Well, I'd not had any since about 10:30 Monday night. Anyone who's had surgery knows how it dries you out. But add in the phospho-soda laxative I'd done for about 4 hours on Monday and I was parched. Literally there were little to no fluids left in my body. It was Tuesday night before they'd start letting me have 4 ounces of ice chips once an hour. Then, finally, Wednesday I was allowed fluids. I had to go down to radiology early that morning and - shudder- drink some contrast fluid for an upper g.i. I wasn't sure the contrast fluid would stay down, but it did. When I got back to my room there was a tray with chicken stock, decaf coffee and crystal light lemonade. I took about two large swallows of the lemonade and two large swallows of the coffee. I was instantly bloated. I felt like the end of the day on Thanksgiving, as if I'd been gorging all day. In short, I learned QUICKLY the limitations of my new stomach pouch.
So here we are, almost a week out now and ready to have my first bite of solid food in nearly three weeks. I'm to eat a scrambled egg today and I'm getting nervous all over again. Today is the acid test to see if my reconfigured digestive system works. I must say - I've never looked so forward to an egg in my life. If I never have another sip of soup in my life I'll be satisfied.

Friday, August 8, 2008

4 more days

After today we're a mere 4 days from surgery. I'm feeling somewhat better. My nutritionist - seeing what a bad time I was having choking down enough broth, jello and grits to make 80 calories - suggested I try "good" soup and just take out the solids. Like Progresso. Thank you God - something that finally tastes good! (Hell, finally something that tastes at all.) Granted, it'd be better if I left the meat and potatoes in pot roast soup, but the flavor is worlds better.
Had all the pre-op stuff on Wednesday and it went well. Dr. Richard is, without question, the nicest doctor I've ever encountered. Upon hearing of my total weight loss (72 pounds so far!) he high-fived and hugged me. He said that the hard work I'd put in on weight loss so far indicated that I was a good candidate for surgery. I was relieved. I was sure that there would be some last minute pitfall. I told Rhonda that I really wouldn't believe this was happening until I woke up in the recovery room. I saw the cardiologist on Tuesday and had a EKG and he gave his ok. Then I had another EKG at the hospital Wednesday. Needless to say I have no chest hair left. That's ok - it'll make me more aerodynamic when I start doing triathlons.
Receiving profoundly caring messages from loved ones and friends as we get closer. It's overwhelming to realize how many people are in my corner. I mean can it get any better? Football season is almost upon us and surgery is almost behind us.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Who would've thunk it????

So I'm 7 days into a "modified" liquid diet. "Modified" meaning things like pudding, jello, grits and oatmeal are allowed. I sensed this might be the toughest hurdle to clear. I was right - but NOT for the reasons I anticipated. I anticipated being on the brink of starvation. I'm allowed between 800-1200 calories a day on this diet and I anticipated being done with 1,200 calories by noon and starving the rest of the day. Quite the contrary. I'm having an AWFUL time making it to 800 calories, much less 1,200. I've been totally caught off guard by the whole thing. This past saturday we had an event that took us out into the sun on a blistering hot day. We were walking around when I suddenly told Rhonda "I feel like I'm about to faint" (not that I've ever fainted or have any idea what it feels like..but the ground was moving and I was lightheaded and I'd had no tequila so I figured I was about to faint.) She said "You need to sit down. How many calories have you had today?" I said "about 270." Nurse mode was activated. She read me the riot act and wanted to know if I'd been eating as much as I should. I said "well, I was doing ok until thursday, then the thought of eating anything else on the 'acceptable' list turned my stomach." Needless to say, I was carted home and fed protein drink, applesauce and oatmeal in short order. In a million years I NEVER imagined I'd hear these words from my bride - "YOU NEED TO EAT MORE!!!" Come to think of it, I don't think anyone has ever said those words to me in 44 years of life (unless I was in some watering hole and downing beverages on an empty stomach - leading to some poor renditions of old David Allen Coe songs. That might have happened!)
Did anyone ever think this southern boy would get tired of grits? I have. They're a lot better with a runny fried egg broken over the top and a half-bottle of hot sauce (sadly, I tried to evoke some memory of that delicacy by just using hot sauce on a recent bowl. I can't recommend it.) Do you know how really quickly one can get tired of pudding? Jello has always worried me. Food that moves just isn't good or natural. Cream of chicken soup strained (so as to remove the bits of chicken) tastes like hospital food from hell. I guess that's the crux of the problem - when the stuff you're limited to doesn't even taste good you don't want it. I'm not hungry, though. Aside from a cold Boodles martini I'm seriously not craving anything. Have I already begun morphing into another person? Has food become an afterthought for someone previously addicted to it? Holy cow, in a couple of years I might have an infomercial that will promise all the insomniacs viewing it that they, too, can be released from the lethal grip of food if only they'll send me three easy payments of $19.95! Move over ginsu knives..there's a new sheriff in town.
One week exactly until surgery. Pre-op visits abound over the next day and a half. I'm getting more nervous by the minute.
(on a totally unrelated note - rest in peace Skip. I told someone this week that the true sign of getting old is the fading away of people and places that you thought would never fade. Listening to baseball on the radio won't be the same.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Now it's reality

For, quite literally, years the notion of this surgery has been a very abstract thing. There's been years of wishing, thinking, planning, excitement, disappointment, fear, praying and dreaming. I've been a child again staring at a shiny bike in the Sears catalog and lying awake at night wondering what it would look like in my driveway. The two week liquid diet that is required for this surgery has begun. So it's real. It's happening. I have to admit - I'm nervous.
No, I haven't changed my mind. I want this more than anything. But now we're down to brass tacks. Now we're down to discussing things like pain management, complications and supplements (the improper use of which can lead to malnutrition.) I've had surgeries before. But nothing like this. Nothing like a surgeon going in and reconstructing my internal organs. I've read everything I can find and talked to all the bariatric patients I can find. Between them all I've found not one definitive answer to this question - when we're talking "pain management" how much pain are we discussing?
I'll make one more analogy that's almost a cliche - I'm a kid again bragging about jumping off the high dive when I go to the pool. Now I'm standing on the high dive with a bunch of folks waiting on me to jump. It's a lot higher than I thought it was....

Monday, July 14, 2008

I'm gonna' buy a suit and get a tattoo

Yep, when all of this ugliness is gone I'm gonna' buy a suit and get a tattoo. Yes, I know, those are strangely contradictory notions. But I've always wanted a "Buzz" tattoo and I'm tired of looking like Norm Peterson when I put on a suit.
I put on an expensive suit and a nice tie and I look in the mirror and the reflection screams "lipstick on a pig." I definitely look like I need to saddle up to the corner of the bar and take a cold draft from Sam and tell Cliff Clavin what a moron he is. People who know me well will be shocked that I'm worried about such things. They know me as more of a flip-flops and old Buffett t-shirt kind of a guy. And, for the most part, that's my attire of choice. But when the time comes and it's all about the suit, I'm tired of looking like I slept in the thing. My dear friend Jim - now HE looks good in a suit. When I go buy that first suit I'm taking Jim with me to pick one out. And then I'm slipping back into my flip-flops and t-shirt and we're going somewhere and drinking tequila and chasing it with strawberries (don't ask....not one of our prouder moments. 'BIG FELLA!!!!!!!!!!!' )
I have to wait on the tattoo because, if I get one before surgery and then lose all that weight, the tattoo will look something like a turkey's neck and flap in the breeze every time I hang my arm out the window. So I'm getting one on the bicep and it'll be more pronounced after I'm all buff. I'm gonna' wear a muscle shirt to biker bars and scare people. That's just how I roll. (quit really - quit laughing!!!!!!!!!)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Feeling Fat

I had an interesting conversation with a young lady a couple of weeks ago. I ran into her in my counselor's waiting room. She was there waiting on her husband to finish a session. As we began talking she told me she had gastric bypass surgery over a year ago. I can't remember the exact amount of weight she'd lost, but it was considerable - well over a hundred pounds, possibly two hundred. Anyway, she said something that amazed me. She said that, despite all the weight lost, she still "feels fat." I thought she was a lunatic - until she explained herself.
Although her body is no longer heavy, her mind is still clouded with the anxieties, depression and despair that come with being so large. When she passes someone in public that looks her way her mind immediately responds "oh, they're staring at me because I'm fat" and the pangs of self-hate kick in. She then reminds herself.."wait, they could be staring at me because they think I'm attractive or they think they know me from somewhere or they like the shirt I'm wearing..." Countless times she's walked past outfits in the store and thought "I'm too fat to wear that" only to turn around a moment later when she remembers that "no, maybe I would look good in that." She said "I'm not trying to discourage you. Just don't beat yourself up when you realize that the surgeons fixed your body but your mind now has to adjust to the new you." I'd never considered it, but it makes perfect sense. I'm sure it's a tough fight, but I'm looking forward to fighting that fight. I would imagine it's like waking up early on a saturday morning and seeing the clock and thinking "crap, the alarm's about to go off..." then realizing it's Saturday and the alarm's not going to go off. Pure euphoria ensues.
On the other hand, it's probably going to have to force me to come to terms with many things I'd been able to attribute to weight issues. "Oh, I'm just too fat and depressed to pursue my songwriting." "I'm feel so bad about myself I just can't put anything into that novel I want so desperately to write." Most importantly "I know I'm not being a great husband but she understands what I'm going through and has set her expectations accordingly." That will be the most exciting of all - finally being able to be the best spouse I can be to the person I love the most. She definitely deserves a different me.

Monday, June 30, 2008


Let me get this straight. There's parts of the world where folks eat this stuff by choice? They marinate meats in this stuff? Some animal gives its life and you slather it in yogurt and throw it on a fire? Were it not for doctor's orders (literally) this stuff would never touch my lips. Come to think of it no dairy products would touch my lips when it's 112 degrees outside. Serious yuck factor. I have to laugh at the names they give it. Honest to God we've got some yogurt in the fridge right now that's called "berry crumb cake." I can put a label from a 12 year old bottle of scotch on a bottle of water but guess what? It's still a bottle of water. I'm staying away from the "berry crumb cake" yogurt. Sounds like they're trying too hard to hide something.
Two HUGE food occasions on the horizon - Fourth of July and vacation. What's the Fourth without some ribs? What's vacation without some obscene dining out? Please notify the restaurateurs in Pigeon Forge TN that they won't need to do their normal mid-July overstock in preparation for my arrival. I'll be there, but I won't be grazing.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ready or Not....

So I mentioned in my last post that I'd be attending the support group meeting that the Bariatric Services folks hold every Tuesday night. It's at those meetings that I weigh in and have my weight sent to my counselor. As I've mentioned, it's supposed to be a blind weigh-in, meaning my counselor doesn't want me to get caught up in numbers. The usual suspects weren't around to weigh me so I asked the nutritionist who was present to weigh me. I told her the situation and she said she would certainly get the information to my counselor. But then I begged. I begged her to tell me the number. I assured her I only wanted to know because I needed to know when I was nearing the 50 pounds lost that Dr. Richard required before surgery. She hesitated at first, but finally relented. "You better call Dr. Richard," she said. "You're down 45 pounds."
I wasted no time. I called my coordinator Wednesday morning. She said "let's go ahead and schedule your surgery." So, after years of waiting, this surgery that I want to change and save my life is actually going to happen. August 12th is D-Day.
I don't guess it's any surprise that I'm as scared as I am excited. Suddenly I'm a kid going to the pool and dying to jump off that high dive. Then, with my toes clinging for life to the very edge of the high dive, I'm amazed at how much higher it looks from up there than it did when I was at the bottom of the ladder spewing bravado. I'm suddenly more focused on the numbers that tell how many people die as a result of this surgery more than I am the dozens of success stories I've encountered. I'm suddenly more focused on staples in internal organs that can come loose than I am how quickly weight will come off. Did you see all the stories on the news about people that are aware of what's happening to them while they're supposed to be under the influence of anesthesia? Remember Junior Mints in someones body cavity on Seinfeld?
I tend to put out those fires of doubt by thinking about the jeans. The jeans that I went to put on last Sunday only to find out that I can't wear them anymore. I'd only worn them once but now, after just 45 pounds of weight lost, wearing them puts me in danger of indecent exposure. I can take off the shorts I'm wearing right now without unzipping them. Oh my God! When I'm driving there's room between my stomach and the steering wheel! There's enough good happening to throw a bucket of cold water on the scary! Staples coming loose? Child's play! Anesthesia?? Hell, Doc..give me shot of whiskey and a stick to bite down on it and let's get this over with!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Other stuff.....

OK, so a bit of a deviation from the norm. Not much happening in the way of weight loss. Still losing, I would imagine, as I was sick for the better part of the week and ate little. Actually, that may have done more harm than good - my metabolism may not have had enough fuel to burn fat last week so there may have been minimal loss. Going to my support group meeting tonight, despite the fact I look like an industrial accident. Since childhood, anytime I run a fever I get monster fever blisters on my mouth and in my nose (there goes breakfast, right?) Well, last week the fever got up to 104 and I ended up in the emergency room. So this week I've got the lovely battle scars to show for my increase in body temperature. The poor dog can't figure them out - she gets up in my face and sniffs and stares. "Wow, whatcha got goin' there? Those look pretty nasty!" But weight and food and protein and carbs aren't on my mind this morning. Summer's on my mind.
I'm listening to folks on the radio and t.v. sound shocked that it's hot. It’s Georgia. It’s summer. It’s hot. Get used to it! What’s there to not like about summer? Can you remember a more perfect time than the summers of your childhood? I seem to remember the summers more than I do the Christmases!
Of all the sights, sounds, smells and tastes that should trigger memories of summer, I find it strange that the unmistakable, grinding song of the Cicada always takes me back to hot summer nights that were the best part of growing up in the south. Nights spent pulling catfish out of Lake Lanier. Nights spent sitting on the carport of my parents’ house in lawn chairs, trying to catch whatever breeze might be blowing and listening to Ernie Johnson and Milo Hamilton call a Braves’ game on the radio. Nights spent sleeping in somebody’s backyard pretending we were 90 miles from nowhere, when actually we were close enough to hear parents snoring out of open windows. And, on all those nights, there were the Cicadas and their symphony which, in and of itself is an ugly sound, but it was the soundtrack to a lot of perfect days.
But let’s get back to folks fussing about the heat. I think our air-conditioned world has made us soft. I think back to 1973. That summer my family moved from East Atlanta to Stone Mountain. The house we moved into didn’t have central air conditioning, but did have a window unit in every single room of the house. My father very promptly removed each window unit from each room because, in his words, “the Georgia Power Company makes enough money.” He left the window unit on the main floor of the house so that we’d be comfortable while we ate supper. That’s the only time I remember being cool – at suppertime. Other than that it was hot. But you know what? I don’t seem to remember minding it at all.
I remember leaving the house in the morning on my bike, joining up with the kids down the street and being gone all day. There were creeks to navigate, salamanders and frogs to catch and forts to build. We might stop back by the house for a bologna sandwich at lunch and then off we went again for more adventures. I’d like to have about half that much energy now. And I realize it’s a much different world now – parents can’t let their kids out of their sight for a moment, much less hours on end. But during those long days of the summers of my youth, I don’t remember the heat being a deterrent to anything. Even after supper at night, the extra hours of daylight gave us even more time to be outdoors, mostly catching lightning bugs at dusk. And make no mistake – they’re lightning bugs, not fireflies! If you call them fireflies and you think it’s too hot, it might be time to consider a move.
On a recent evening, the subject of homemade ice cream came up. I told my wife that July 4ths always meant homemade ice cream at my aunt and uncle’s place in Dawsonville. I can remember the sound of multiple freezers going but there was always at least two that didn’t have the motorized whine coming from them. That was because my cousin Alan and I were providing the elbow power necessary to keep things churning. I can hear Aunt Nell now – “I think the hand-cranked freezers make better ice cream!” I told my wife “I think it was just one of those character building things that old folks make you go through...sweating buckets out on the porch just to make some ice cream.” She said “yeah, but what would you give to be sitting out there with Alan cranking out some ice cream right now?” I’ll save you the paraphrase of the credit card commercials that remind us of the things and times in life that are priceless. There are plenty of medications that promise to relax us and make us less anxious and depressed. People meditate, pray and send money to television preachers looking for peace of mind. On my tough days, I write myself a prescription of iced tea and an hour or two on the patio listening to those noisy Cicadas. The other night, much to my wife’s amusement, I tried to catch a lightning bug. You know what? They’re a lot faster than they used to be.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

No dice!

So she wouldn't tell me. She was sitting right there with the numbers in my chart and she wouldn't tell me how much weight I've lost. "I don't want you to get caught up in numbers!" she says. Oh really? You wanna' get caught up in a good ol' fashioned Abdullah The Butcher headlock until you relent and give up the numbers? She said my surgeon would be pleased and she was pleased. So I guess I should take it at that and be happy.
I guess I'm surprised by the overall "mentalness" of all this. I went in thinking "fix my stomach, make me thinner and let's call it a day." The breadth of the program is set up, of course, to deal with issues that brought me to this point in the first place. And, I must admit, that I'm finding out more and more about those issues and myself every time I speak with her. It's amazing how long the human mind holds onto things. Some of these things took root in my childhood, for God's sake.
Suppertime - when I was a child suppertime wasn't a meal. It wasn't just a refueling of the body. It was an event. Some of my fondest childhood memories go back to my Mother's supper table. Every night was Thanksgiving as all three sisters and I gathered around the table with our parents. It was where LIFE happened. It's where I heard my father talk about his job and my sisters talk about school and where rules were laid down and plans were made. So forgive me if it falls flat now when I have my 7 ounces of protein, one starch, one veggie and...and...well that's it. I have those few bites alone a lot of the time because I'm eating early on my bride's late nights (to avoid the obvious downfalls of eating late.) I fed the dog the other night at the same time I ate. I asked her how her day went. She came over and used my leg for a napkin, wiping a lovely mix of slobber and mushy dog food on my shin. It wasn't quite the same.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Enough to make a man crazy...

As part of this whole process I'm seeing a counselor that specializes in eating disorders and weight management. Not just folks on my side of the scale but folks on the other end that don't eat enough. As part of the process she wants me to "blind weigh." Meaning she wants someone to weigh me and then get the results to her without me knowing them. Gotta admit, I didn't like the sound of that when she mentioned it. I mean it's MY progress and MY results and I want to know them, dammit! But, being the charitable soul that I am, I tried to comply.
I was going to a support group meeting anyway, up at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Lanier Park Campus. Their bariatric services group works in conjuction with my surgeon - Dr. Richard at Obesity Solutions in Gainesville - and they have facilities there where I can weigh, get support materials and have open dialogue with their dietician. It's an outstanding program. I can't say enough about their staff. Connie and Natalie are angels dressed in normal folks' clothes. But anyway....Natalie weighs me after the meeting on Saturday. Says she'll get the info to my counselor. Then she says "Wait a minute..what was your starting weight?" I told her and she said "Wow! You've done REALLY good on your own... REALLY good."
For the first time in.....well, I can't remember how long, something positive had been said about my weight and something appeared to be working. See, in preparation for surgery, I've been on a strict eating plan suggested by my counselor. While doing her plan (which isn't that hard, really) I'm easing into the modified liquid diet suggested by my surgeon. It consists of things like jello, cottage cheese, broth, cream soups (strained), sugar free popsicles, protein drinks etc.. Apparently, I've actually done some good. I don't FEEL like I've lost a lot of weight. But, at my size, it's like emptying the ocean with a teaspoon. The surgeon wants me to lose 50 lbs before surgery. Hopefully, when I meet with my counselor this afternoon, she'll give me some idea of what "really good means." She may not tell me but I'm going to try to pry it out of her. Cross your fingers.

Monday, June 2, 2008

It's not about pity...

I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. This is 80% my fault. I say 80% because I'm quite certain that (at least) 20% of it is genetics. I overate. I over-did a lot of things, but that's another story for another day (suffice it to say that there were portions of my life where a majority of my caloric intake consisted of liquid carbs.) So no, I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. But I would like for folks to be able to see some of what I've been able to see while living like this. It'd change your view on lots of things, not just weight control or eating right.
The most important lesson I'll take away from life as a large person was best described by C S Lewis. He said "We're not bodies who have souls...we're souls who have bodies." Not to repeat myself, but I'm not defined by my weight. Anymore so than some of the folks I see touted as "pretty people" - celebrities, models, actors etc... - should be defined by their appearance (that said, if a genie popped out of a bottle and said I had three wishes, it wouldn't hurt my feelings if he could make me look a little more like George Clooney and a little less like Jonathan Winters. The other two wishes would involve bad things befalling the University of Georgia's football team,,,but I digress.)
Did you see the woman on the news last week who had lived her life in an iron lung (I didn't know there really was such a thing?) Did you read the list of all that she'd accomplished while living this way? Have you seen Oscar Pistorious, the South African paralympic athlete? They're just a couple of the countless people who have refused to let their bodies define their souls. Here's the difference between them and me - neither of them did anything to cause their limitations nor could they change them. My lifestyle has caused mine. If they can find courage to live life in spite of the hand they're dealt, then surely I can overcome a hand I've dealt myself.
My soul literally thirsts for things my body will no longer allow. I spent a lot of time in my youth camping and hiking. I long for the day when I can climb a mountain, spend a night on top and walk back down in the morning. I desperately want to go to a baseball game, but I can't fit in the sits. I'd like to go to a hockey game with some friends and misbehave and yell rude things to the refs and bang on the glass like a moron. Again, the seats prevent it. I'd like to stand up in front of a group of people, as I've done many times in the past, and tell them a joke or two or play my guitar and sing some silly song I've written. But more than "physical" things I can't wait to look into the face of people and know that they're accepting me on terms that go beyond how big I am. That's gonna be fun......

Friday, May 30, 2008


Ok,,this is when it's going to hurt. Weekends. At the end of a productive week, I should be sitting on the patio, sipping a cold martini, wondering whether to throw new york strip or scallops (or both) on the grill. I guess it's one of those "eye on the prize" kind of moments. Sacrifice longer. Sacrifice now...enjoy being outdoors even more in the future. Gotta tell you, though, if the neighbor fires up his grill tonight I'm going to put my lawn sprinkler right up next to the privacy fence. "Oh, I'm sorry! Did I put out your fire?"

Thursday, May 29, 2008

And away we go......

This won't be fun. But it'll be exciting. It won't be easy. But it'll be interesting. I've never taken such a monumental step in my 44 years here on planet earth. I'm not even sure it's the right step, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And paying a surgeon a large sum of money to go into your abdomen and reroute your digestive system is a desperate measure. Why do such a thing? Easy - I want my life back.
For too long my weight has defined who I am. It's NOT who I am. But most of the souls I encounter try to make it so. For those of you who don't know, there are a surprisingly large number of idiots on this planet. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it's so. Kind of like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." You could be sitting next to an idiot right now and not even know it!! The idiots I refer to are those that take notice when the big guy walks into a room and they stare and elbow the person next to them so that they won't miss the spectacle. They're the ones who point at me and laugh openly. The guy who walked up to me at the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving and said "Wow! I guess this is YOUR favorite holiday!" is an idiot. The cashier at the corner gas station who gave me my change and then, out of the blue, says "How do you ride on airplanes?" is an idiot. The guy who started to get on the elevator but stopped to say "Whoa! Is there room on here for me?" is an idiot. I'd like to tell you that these instances are the work of an overactive imagination. But I'd be lying. They all happened to me. In fact, they're just a few of the dozens of times idiots - total strangers mind you - that have gone out of their way to make me feel like I'd better serve humanity by jumping off a bridge somewhere. Just the prospect of weight-loss surgery gives me the opportunity to say this - I'm fat, but there's a surgery I can use as a tool to help me overcome that. You're an idiot - there's no surgery to cure that..
But it's not just the scorn of idiots that movitates me. As mentioned, I'm 44 years old. I know that, at this size, I'll never see 50. That's just not enough time to spend with the person who married me for who I am and gives me the courage to get up every morning. When she became my wife in 1997, we never knew it'd get this hard. We never knew all the "for better, for worse..." stuff would really happen so soon. But it has. And it's my fault. I'm robbing us of years that we can spend enjoying life. Because of my size we really aren't even living life at this point. I owe it to her to do everything in my power to make this surgery successful.
I'll give more details later..for now, suffice it to say it's going to be a "long, strange trip..."